Osteoarthritis Most Common, Debilitating Form of Arthritis

Health Minute

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Simple tasks such as tucking in bed sheets, grasping a pencil, climbing stairs and driving a car can quickly morph into agonizing activities for someone with osteoarthritis, a common joint disease that affects up to 27 million Americans, according to the Arthritis FoundationOff Site Icon.

“Osteoarthritis is the loss of cartilage on the end of the bone,” says James Klosterman, MD, an orthopedic surgeon with Premier Orthopedics. “This is important for patients to understand because often there is a misconception that if we simply went in and scraped something out that their problem would go away. But you can’t remove something that is not there already. We are talking about the loss of cartilage – it’s gone. And as a result, you’re rubbing bone on bone.” Osteoarthritis is the most common chronic condition of the joints occurring most often in a person’s knees, hips, lower back, neck, small joints of the fingers and the bases of the thumb and big toe. Also known as degenerative joint disease, osteoarthritis occurs when the firm, rubbery material called cartilage around a person’s joints breaks down and no longer provides the cushion needed between bones to help keep joints moving smoothly.

The Source of the Pain

The absence of a smooth surface or cushion between bones is what creates the pain often associated with osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is a progressive disease that can result in joint damage and increased pain over time. The most common symptoms are pain and stiffness, particularly first thing in the morning or after resting. Affected joints may get swollen, especially after extended activity. Most symptoms often build over time rather than coming on suddenly, the Arthritis Foundation says.

Osteoarthritis is often seen as an age-related disease, and the fact is that it affects more than one-third of adults over the age of 65, according to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH). However, the disease can affect adults at any age and risk factors range from a person’s inherited predisposition to the disease to excessive use of joints in sports at a young age, says Dr. Klosterman, who practices within Premier Physician Network.

“Injury prevention is key,” Dr. Klosterman says. “Staying healthy, maintaining a healthy weight, managing your lifestyle so that you don’t increase your predisposition to develop osteoarthritis is critical because once you get it, once you develop the symptoms, history tells us that progression is its natural course.”

Steps of Prevention

Dr. Klosterman recommends the following steps to help prevent osteoarthritis:

Properly care for injuries – Those who experience a traumatic injury to one of their joints should make sure they seek proper treatment for it. Injuries that do not properly heal can have a significant impact on the development of osteoarthritis later in life.

Stay active – Regular exercise is important for preventing osteoarthritis, however, only if you are careful to listen to your body when pain might arise. Exercise that is causing joint pain should be re-evaluated and possibly modified to lower-impact activities.

Maintain a healthy weight – Obesity has a significant impact on a person’s joint health. Dr. Klosterman often finds that patients who come in with joint pain may no longer need him after they have taken steps to return to a healthy weight. “It’s about when you eat, how you eat and what you put into your body,” Dr. Klosterman says. “If you follow a good plan, then you will naturally drop weight.”

Make lifestyle changes – There is a direct link between smoking, poor nutrition and joint pain. Take steps to quit smoking and consider how you might be able to create a healthier diet.

For more information on osteoarthritis or to find a Premier Physician Network physician near you, visit premierphysiciannet.com/ortho.

It's easy to get the care you need.

See a Premier Physician Network provider near you.